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Abbie Crombie – Nursing, medical

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Newly qualified nurse Abbie Crombie, 21, has gained so much from her CQC specialist advisor role that she’s been able to give inspection advice to her own ward sister.

"In 2013, when I was in my second year of nursing study, I replied to a email from CQC asking for student nurses to take part in hospital inspections as specialist advisors.

I’d read the Francis Report into failures of care at Mid-Staffs and was interested in its recommendations. On a professional level, I also thought having this kind of experience would give me an edge.

Plus having assumed the role was voluntary, it was a definite bonus to find out I’d be paid for the work.

My first inspection

A week or so after applying in November 2013, I was on an inspection of Barts Trust in London.

It was a huge operation and very daunting – there were just under 100 of us across multiple sites. However, we were all in the same boat as no one knew what to expect.

Afterwards I was exhausted but fulfilled. I’d learned a huge amount and felt sure I wanted to do it again.

I’m now a newly qualified nurse working on the renal ward at Royal Derby Hospital, and have been involved in six inspections in total. I manage to fit CQC work in around shifts or during annual leave.

Being treated as an equal

Each inspection team as a whole is broken up into smaller sub teams. My skills and knowledge are more profound in the medical area, so that’s the team I usually request to work on.

As a specialist advisor I’m treated as an equal on my team, included and fully involved. The focus during an inspection is teamwork as we all have different skills and knowledge plus collectively we’re from diverse backgrounds. This is key to an inspection as it offers alternate perspectives on the elements we’re assessing.

Talking to staff

Feeling valued as an equal member of my inspection team gives me more confidence when it comes to speaking to staff. During inspections I’ll talk to people from all levels, from cleaners and healthcare assistants, students, up to doctors and consultants.

Some staff tend to clam up when they find out I’m with CQC, but I try to be as accessible as possible. Explaining I’m a newly qualified nurse helps break down any barriers.

Looking at nursing paperwork

Knowledge of nursing paperwork is something I bring to inspections, and we’ll often drill down into a specific patient’s care.

For example, if someone has had a pressure ulcer we track their case through the paperwork to check they’ve been reported and cared for correctly. How has the pressure ulcer been tracked? Has their care been responsive to their needs, and escalated if necessary? Ultimately is the patient safe?

A greatly enriched knowledge and outlook

Being a CQC specialist advisor has helped me in many ways. For a start, it’s exposed me to issues I’d never have seen otherwise as a newly qualified nurse.

It’s made me realise that I’d love to be an inspector myself one day. In fact, I’ve already been offered a two-year inspection secondment but turned it down as I wanted to gain more knowledge and skills first.

This role is also a great statement to add to my CV – it demonstrates my involvement and enriched understanding of inspections, which is relevant to all hospitals throughout Britain.

I’ve also been able to get a glimpse into how other hospitals work. I’ve seen best practice – and poor practice – and now have greater insight into what’s best for my own patients. All this at the start of my career.

Bringing back insider knowledge of CQC inspections

When my own trust was preparing for a CQC inspection in December 2014 I was able to suggest key lines of enquiry the inspectors could pursue. 

I talked to my ward sister about some of the things I might cover on the inspection – for example, looking at the resuss trolley and equipment and talking to staff about staffing levels.

How else would I have had the opportunity to do this if it wasn’t for being a specialist advisor?

Encouraging other student nurses and nurses

Put simply, being a specialist advisor is an amazing opportunity and one I’ve encouraged many nursing friends to get involved with too.

I often stress that although inspections can provide additional knowledge and skills, it’s important to bear in mind they’re gruelling, exhausting and demanding and certainly don’t suit everyone.

But they’re also fantastic for development, especially transferring your knowledge and skills and using them in a totally different environment."

Last updated:
29 May 2017


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